Concerned members of the community, along with licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants, joined together the afternoon of Aug. 1 to protest job cuts at New Martinsville Care Center.
A press release issued early last week contained the following quote from Mary Kuhens, a worker at the care center: "My co-workers and I wake up and go to work every day to provide the best quality care possible to the residents of the New Martinsville Care Center and I am deeply concerned that if management cuts the staff, that care could be in jeopardy." She added, "Management always looks at direct care providers first when they want to cut costs, but we are the ones that are there for the residents from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night. We love, care, and appreciate our residents and if we are not there to provide their care, who will?"
Candy Blake, executive board leader of the nurses, along with Terri Tamborello, an SEIU, nurses rep, were available for comment during the rally. Blake explained that the nurses had been doing staff reduction days for the past three years, working together as a team, so there would be no cuts. Unfortunately now detrimental cuts to hours have been taken, which will now take some nurses from full-time status to part-time status, or part-time status to PRN - as needed. Blake references that despite these cuts to the nursing staff, which only allows 12 total caregivers on shift, there still remain 18 people in management positions at the center. Blake added that the problems began in October of last year, when Genesis Healthcare took over the health center. The facility drastically reduced from a 120-bed facility to an 88-bed facility. Blake stated that she understood the need for cuts but, had expected that management would do the same.
Beau Stewart, Candy Blake’s grandson, helps his grandma get the nurses’ message out to drivers along state Route 2.
"They'd be out here with us if they could," Blake said of the patients that she believes will undoubtedly be affected by the cuts. She says that patients will not get their medicine on time now, their beds changed on time.
"We are just asking that management be fair," Blake explained. "We have taken cuts. They need to take their turn."
Jeanne Moore, Genesis Healthcare spokesperson, issued a statement to the Wetzel Chronicle concerning the informational picket conducted by SEIU 1199, which represents some of the center's employees.
"For several years the number of patients and residents that we have been caring for at New Martinsville Center has been decreasing. We are licensed and have the capacity for 120 skilled nursing beds. However, the number we have cared for over the last two years has never exceeded 100," explained Moore. "This summer we have seen an additional decline. Today we are currently caring for 80 patients and residents.
"Because we are operating at a very challenging time with reduced revenues, we were forced to evaluate how to more appropriately structure our staffing levels to meet the current patient population," said Moore, adding, "For the past three years there have been reductions in management hours at the center. In no was have the recent staff reductions affected the level or quality of care we provide. In fact, even with the reductions, New Martinsville Center's staffing levels continue to exceed West Virginia state requirements."
She concluded by noting that there were no disruptions in care or normal operations during the picket.